Title:
Duelle, Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica
Author:
Mark Feary, Ben Speth and Anador Walsh
Date:
17.06.21

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Dominic Redfern. Courtesy of the artists.

Mark Feary, Waiting for Duelle, 2009

Straddling alongside both walls, as if commuters awaiting the imminent arrival of a train upon a platform, the crowd lies in wait. Click. They anxiously and repetitively consult their wrists as if distrusting of the movement of their timepieces or the electronic digits representing the passing of time. Click. They randomly scan one another, as if waiting for one of the crowd to reveal themselves as something they are not. Click. They fidget and shuffle from side to side as if uncomfortable within their own skin, yet cautiously enough so as not to encroach upon the abyss they have created across the gallery. Click.

After a time, one arrives, and slowly the crowd become transfixed as it approaches. Click. Shifting their weary gazes from one another toward a common cause, united in their collective restlessness. Click.

From the other direction, another arrives, perhaps a different model, not entirely dissimilar, yet dissimilar enough to be distinct. Click. Perhaps it is the way it sounds, the way it lurches, the way these lurches develop their own fluidity and in turn become movement. Click.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Dominic Redfern. Courtesy of the artists.

Duelle represents an enigma of encounters involving the interchangeability of muse and mentor, with individual works repositioned within a collaborative framework that diminishes the specificities within which each individual work was made. By and large, performative acts such as dance performances exist without visual documentation. After the performance concludes, it exists in the memory - both individual and collective - of those involved and those in the audience. They are events recalled rather than recorded. They are contemporary insofar as they engage with a specific time. As such, they are representative of the here and now and it is with such contemporaneity that such performances are recalled. How then does a specific piece age, or rather, what is the slippage between the there and then and the here and now? If the materials remain the same, in its simplest form at least, a body, then how does a piece age in contrast to the form enacting the piece?

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Concettina Inserra. Courtesy of the artists.

Duelle alludes to these considerations of specificity and temporality framework layering another mechanism upon post facto reflection. Through actively engaging photographers within the framing of the performance Duelle positions itself within a specific moment and physical context. Notably, the work is not presented within a traditional performative venue but rather a contemporary art space, and more pointedly, one with an emphasis on photographic practice. In this regard, the gallery is not used to present photographic outcomes, but rather as a site to facilitate photographic process.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Concettina Inserra. Courtesy of the artists.

Through the recording and documenting of Duelle it is lodged within a specific time, if not readily definable presently, then certainly one that will be distinguishable in future. The time evasiveness of the performance will be belied by the hairstyles and fashions of the audience, telltale indicators of any time. and this is perhaps the crux of the project, to wrestle the performance from memory and mismemory and to lodge it within a definitive setting - creating a framework that surrounds the performance rather than relying on the memory of what has been performed. This newly documented rendition in turn dissolves the temporal and locational specificities of each previous enactment of the individual performances. This is not an act of replacement, for Duelle and its constituent components are now altogether different undertakings, despite involving exactly the same movements.

Click. No carriage arrives yet everybody is transported to somewhere else.

Waiting for Duelle is a historical piece and was written on the occasion of the presentation of Duelle by Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne in 2009.

Mark Feary is a New Zealand-born curator based in Melbourne, and since 2016, is Artistic Director of Gertrude Contemporary. He has worked within the visual art sector for two decades in a range of contemporary art centres, universities, museums and artist-led initiatives, with an emphasis on contemporary art. Feary has worked in curatorial and programming roles at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney; Artspace, Sydney; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne; and West Space, Melbourne. Independently and institutionally, he has developed and presented projects internationally in New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, USA, and Chile.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Terence Hogan. Courtesy of the artists.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Terence Hogan. Courtesy of the artists.

Ben Speth, Duelle Purpose, 2009

"Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up and thicken the environment we recognise as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood".
Susan Sontag, On Photography.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Patrick Pound. Courtesy of the artists.

It was my intention to document Shelley and Deanne as they warmed up for Duelle. It is one of my favourite parts of a show and because it interests me, I thought it might interest others: a record of them choosing their outfits, stretching, gossiping, moving about the space, marking; doing all the things that performers do before the performance, before they become performers; the transition from one of us into one of them. But, due to a flat battery and, I must confess, a nagging disinterest in rendering images, I have instead chosen to render a few words regarding the potential inherent in combining live performance and photography.

I remember the day as a sunny one, I got to CCP early after enjoying another body of work at Conical, up the street. Shelley and Deanne looked lovely – they are always very well turned out. I cannot remember exactly what they wore, and because I am writing this without the benefit of referencing a photograph, I will just have to relate my having experienced both pleasure and some envy at how they were dressed. I certainly don’t remember what I was wearing but, since I rode my bike, most likely, I was dressed casually and was perhaps a bit dirty.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Patrick Pound. Courtesy of the artists.

Shelley and Deanne are friends. Last year, Shelley saw Deanne do a solo that reminded her (Shelley) of a piece that she’d done some 20 years previous – this is what I remember Shelley telling me right after seeing Deanne’s show. So Duelle is partly occasioned by memory. To give further form to memory and its relation to time, Duelle was performed with photographers - Dominic Redfern, Matthew Gingold, Patrick Pound, Concettina Inserra, and Annie Wilson - in galleries 1 and 2 at CCP.

These two galleries are 2 corridors that intersect to form an ‘L’. If you were not at the corner where galleries 1 and 2 met, you would not have been able, much of the time, to see both or sometimes, even either, performer. So most of ‘us’ moved about as much as possible so as to be able to see ‘them.’ As Shelley and Deanne moved here and there, we would follow and then they’d turn on us and we’d be unable to keep a respectful distance; an embarrassed smile met the rehearsed blank visage of the trained modern performer. All this contingent movement made a ‘them’ out of ‘us’. That is, we all became performers and performed, watchers and watched.

Speaking of watchers and performers, the photographer’s movement, because it too was contingent, could also be considered choreographed, part of the show. Watching them work, listening to the rhythm of shutters, breaths, and footfalls (is there an experience of time that is not accompanied by some sort of rhythm?) I began to ‘see’ what they were seeing. That is, I triangulated, and to the best of my ability, saw and identified with what it was they were trying to see, trying to do. This effort expanded to include those not consciously performing: to see and try to imagine what others might be experiencing, and for a moment, myself grew lithe and graceful and moved – danced – from subjectivity to subjectivity.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Matthew Gingold. Courtesy of the artists.

It is easy for me to imagine the corridors – the trajectories - that intersect to make that ‘L’, shooting off into space and time for the life spans of both artists, and that the intersection of galleries 1 and 2 was our intersection of space and time. Thus, this show – that is, our show – became a sort of rumination about time. And isn’t an individual’s sense of time culturally inculcated?

Which brings us to the Sontag quote. While I think we have put to good use her musings on photography and experience within the context of Duelle, we’ve still to wrestle with ‘...objects that make up and thicken the environment we recognise as modern’ (my italics). So, who are ‘we’ and what do ‘we recognise as modern’ within the context of Duelle? That both Shelley and Deanne have been influenced by an arm (a corridor?) of modernism is undeniable. The work done by Simone Forti, Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer and Douglas Gordon at The Judson Church sounds still. But that is but one form, telos, iteration of modernism. There are many more.

What do we mean when ‘we’ say ‘modern’; what kind of historical, technological and cultural assumptions are ‘we’ making? What if Shelley and Deanne were not of European descent – were First Nations? What if they performed outside, under the sky, in the bush but still surrounded by photographers? How would ‘we’ watch this performance? What sense would we make of the heritage of the dance and its history of investigating quotidian movement? How would ‘we’ be there - would this diversity inhibit ‘us’? Is it fair to ask these questions of this work – or of any work? This is not a criticism of Duelle or the CCP mailing list; what I am talking about is bigger than this.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2009, performance documentation, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Photo: Matthew Gingold. Courtesy of the artists.

Because I was listening and watching us – those whose role it was to dance, those whose role it was to photograph, and those whose role it was to watch - become an ‘us’, I became aware of who ‘we’ were and consequently, what we weren’t. We weren’t a very diverse crowd. I mention this because I am a white artist, I live and work in Australia, and as such am part of an Anglo dominated divide.

There is always something optimistic, if not utopian, at the heart of every live performance. For a show to present so many possibilities – so many potentialities – in such a divided society, makes me want more - from ‘us’.

Duelle Purpose is a historical piece and was written on the occasion of the presentation of Duelle by Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne in 2009.

Editor's note: The word ‘Aboriginal’ was originally used in this text. The term 'First Nations' has been substituted in order to better meet current usage.

Ben Speth is an artist who lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden and occasionally via the Internet.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2021, performance documentation, The Pavilion, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne. Photo: Moss Lasica Wood. Courtesy of the artists.

Anador Walsh, The moment of conversion, 2021

“We clearly produce images, many of us daily, but images also produce us: those that we take and share among ourselves; those that we see and assimilate through mass and social media; and those that we, or certainly I, encounter in various spaces that host art”.1
Isobel Harbison

“For many artists now, there is an inherent understanding of the extent to which the camera’s ubiquitous presence elicits performance rather than simply records…”2
Catherine Wood

I am interested in the impetus to capture and distribute an image. Why do you photograph your food before eating it? What is it that makes you flick to your phone’s front camera and take a selfie with that filter? What inspires you to then post it online? Is it a knee jerk reaction? Or is there more to it – the recognition of something familiar or an inherent desire to be seen? What is it that traps us in the never-ending cycle of digital production and consumption?

My interest in the produce-consume-produce loop, is heightened by the conflation of performance with the digital. When watching a performance, I try to be wholly attuned to the moment of conversion; the instant in which my witnessing turns to spectatorship and I reach for the cool, glass façade of my iPhone. Maybe this speaks to my character, but I don’t fight the urge, rather I indulge it. I capture a movement, gesture or piece of dialogue and post it as an image or video to Instagram, often in series. I do this with such frequency, that a friend recently dubbed me “the social media Queen” in jest.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2021, performance documentation, The Pavilion, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne. Photo: Moss Lasica Wood. Courtesy of the artists.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica’s Duelle is a work that explores this conflation. Duelle was originally presented at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Melbourne on 18 December 2009, two years after the tandem emergence of the dance exhibition format3 and the first incarnations of the now omnipresent iPhone and iCloud.4 Duelle was restaged on 20 March 2021 at The Pavilion, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, as part of Butterworth’s City of Melbourne Creative Spaces residency. In Duelle, two separate yet dialectical pieces of choreography, Lasica’s Behaviour, 1993, and Butterworth’s Dual Repérage, 2009, made 16 years apart, are performed simultaneously for an audience, who is invited to participate in the work through processes of documentation.

In 2009, when Duelle was first shown within the L shaped confines of CCP’s white cube, dance in the gallery was beginning to have a resurgence in the visual arts. The presence of two bodies in motion in the gallery space liberated the audience from the behavioural codes associated with witnessing, which is mandated by the traditional black box mode of performance presentation. This original performance was marked by a close proximity between the performers and audience, who continually reorientated themselves; following Butterworth and Lasica through the space, attempting to gain a better vantage point. Invited photographers Matthew Gingold, Concettina Inserra, Patrick Pound, Dominic Redfern and Terence Hogan and videographer Anne Scott Wilson wove between Butterworth, Lasica and the audience, documenting the dancing.5 This documentation was then posted across the CCP website and image hosting sites Vimeo and Flickr.

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2021, performance documentation, The Pavilion, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne. Photo: Linda Tegg. Courtesy of the artists.

The iteration of Duelle I saw at The Pavilion, Fitzroy Gardens, though similar in its mandate, was markedly different. The provocation was the same, Butterworth and Lasica issued Instagram posts encouraging audiences to come to the performance and “participate by recording the work in any form”, but the audience’s responses varied.6 Butterworth and Lasica began their respective pieces at opposite ends of the space, which is also L shaped, though much wider and more open than CCP. Both dressed in black and wearing red lipstick, Butterworth and Lasica danced to an electronically generated, metronome-like soundtrack of camera aperture clicks. Apart, it was clear that the repertoire they were performing was distinct: as Butterworth crawled backwards on her hands and feet, Lasica, lying on the ground, wrapped her body around an audience member’s legs. However, when they moved into the same plane, the commonality between some of their gestures made it appear as if they were moving in concert.

In this incarnation, Butterworth and Lasica’s dancing was largely uninhibited by the audience, who, for the most part, sat around the space’s periphery.7 Throughout the performance, there was documentation: Carmen-Sibha Keiso moved around the edges of the dancing and the outside of the glass walled space, filming; a man sat opposite me, sketching the dancing in charcoal and whilst only two people with cameras moved about the space, I counted another four taking photographs from their seats. There were a few people capturing the performance on their smartphones, though much less than I anticipated. Later I would see some of this documentation online, distributed as Instagram stories, then again, twice over, when it was reshared to Butterworth and Lasica’s stories. No one crossed the floor or stood between the performers to document, instead they kept a respectful, unobtrusive distance.

There are many ways of looking at the documentation or comparative lack-thereof of this performance of Duelle. The Fitzroy Gardens Pavilion, in its being neither a gallery nor a theatrical space, possibly created some confusion in the audience as to whether or not the kind of smartphone documentation, now endemic of the white cube, was permitted. This would explain the instances in which I noticed people looking around, as if waiting for others to grant them permission to take out their phones. In the post of the Melbourne 2020 lockdown, it is also possible that the audience was still experiencing digital fatigue. Having spent 112 days living and working through the intermediaries of their computers and smartphones, they may have wanted to witness Duelle without technological mediation. Art historian Claire Bishop suggests that this kind of audience behaviour reveals a desire “…for experiences that stand as a counterpoint to our lives online: embodied immediacy, shared collective presence, physical proximity, a sense of place, and an internal mediation in the company of others”.8

Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica, Duelle, 2021, performance documentation, The Pavilion, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne. Photos: Simon MacEwen. Courtesy of the artists.

Performances that are premised on or encourage audience participation rely on the audience’s willing assumption of this role and therefore run the risk of failure. In the 2021 performance of Duelle, this participation was notably fractured into participating documenters and passive witnesses. In her 2019 book ‘Performing Image’, Isobel Harbison posits a theory of the same name as a means of framing works of art that engage with prosumer culture through the conflation of performance with moving image. Harbison writes: “Performing Image works represent a cycle of image acquisition, of consumption and production; they are works that step in to these cycles in order to co-exist outside of them...”.9 I would classify Duelle as being a “Performing Image” work, in that it makes transparent the production consumption loop that characterises our 21st century existence and in particular, the way we relate to art. Duelle troubles life “under the image”10 by positioning the audience within the work and making them acutely aware of their decision to engage in documenting Butterworth and Lasica’s dancing, to watch without technological obstruction, or, as I did, to flit between these two modes.

In her introduction to ‘Shelley Lasica, The Design Plot’, 2021, Zoe Theodore asks “What is the work”?12 This question is as applicable to Duelle as it is to The Design Plot, 2016-ongoing. There are three pieces of work happening concurrently in Duelle. There is the work Lasica is doing with the audience, as her solo ponders their behaviour in this moment. There is the work happening between Butterworth and the audience, as she offers them multiple points of access into Dual Repérage. And there is the work of the audience as they choose how they engage with Duelle holistically. In our present moment, where the proliferation of technology and social media has rendered us all prosumers, Duelle forces us to be cognisant of this role and to critically reflect on why we are or are not documenting the work. Duelle uses our engagement as a means of making us conscious of our conforming to or railing against the expectations of a contemporary art audience, in which the unpaid labour of image production and circulation is now an expected norm under neoliberalism.

  1. Isobel Harbison, Performing Image (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2019), p.1.

  2. Catherine Wood, “Pics or it didn’t happen,” in Histories of Performance Documentation, ed. Gabriella Giannachi and Jonah Westerman (New York, Routledge, 2018), pp. 74-75.

  3. The term dance exhibition refers to exhibitions like Move: Choreographing You, curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, 2010, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London and Maria Hassabi, PLASTIC, 2016, Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), New York, in which choreographic works are extended or programmed inorder to fill gallery hours.

  4. Claire Bishop, “Black Box, White Cube, Grey Zone: Dance Exhibitions and Audience Attention,” The Drama Review 62, no.2 (January 2018): Project Muse, p. 24.

  5. My knowledge of the original 2009 performance of Duelle is all second hand and comes from the writings of Mark Feary and Ben Speth and my conversations with Butterworth and Lasica.

  6. Shelley Lasica (@shelleylasica), “Join us at 5:30pm on Saturday 20th March at The Pavilion, Fitzroy Gardens for DUELLE by Deanne Butterworth and Shelley Lasica. DUELLE is a performance that includes the recording and dissemination of itself. We invite the audience to participate by recording the work in any form,” Instagram, March 12, 2021,

  7. Prior to the performance, someone had entered the pavilion and seated themselves and those that entered behind them had followed suit.

  8. Bishop, “Black Box, White Cube, Grey Zone: Dance Exhibitions and Audience Attention,” p. 40.

  9. Harbison, Performing Image, p.16.

  10. Harbison, Performing Image, p.15.

  11. Zoe Theodore, “Introduction,” in Shelley Lasica, The Design Plot, ed. Justine Ellis and Dan Rule (Perimeter Editions: Melbourne: 2021), p. 3.

Thank you to Deanne Butterworth, Shelley Lasica and Zoe Theodore for such generous and generative conversations on Duelle and thank you to Amelia Wallin for your time and editorial input into this piece.

Anador Walsh is an emerging curator and writer living and working in Naarm (Melbourne). Anador is passionate about performance and conceptual art practices, and their ability to reflect our current socio-cultural condition. Central to her curatorial practice is a dialogical approach that preferences relationship building and the sharing of knowledge. In 2020 Anador took part in the Gertrude Contemporary Emerging Writers Program and was the 2019 recipient of the BLINDSIDE Emerging Curator Mentorship. Anador has held the professional positions of Marketing and Development Manager at Gertrude Contemporary and Gallery Assistant at both Neon Parc and STATION Gallery. Anador is the founding editor of Performance Review.

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